Live from the candlelit chapel of King's College, Cambridge, and based around nine Bible readings interspersed with Christmas hymns and carols sung by the world-famous chapel choir.
A live broadcast from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge
Hymn: Once in Royal David's City (desc. Cleobury)
Bidding Prayer read by the Dean
In the bleak mid-winter (Darke)
First lesson: Genesis 3 vv 8-19 read by a Chorister
Adam's Fall (Richard Elfyn Jones)
Love came down at Christmas (Morris Arr. Cleobury)
Second lesson: Genesis 22 vv 15-18 read by a Choral Scholar
How shall I fitly meet thee? (J.S. Bach)
I saw three ships (Arr. Ledger)
Third lesson: Isaiah 9 vv 2, 6-7 read by a representative of the Cambridge Churches
Illuminare, Jerusalem (Judith Weir)
O little town of Bethlehem (Arr. Cleobury)
Fourth lesson: Isaiah 11 vv 1-3a, 4a, 6-9 read by the Chaplain
A spotless rose (Howells)
The Lamb (Tavener)
Fifth lesson: Luke 1 vv 26-38 read by a member of College staff
Gabriel's Message (Arr. Pettman)
The Linden Tree Carol (Arr. Cleobury)
Sixth lesson: Luke 2 vv 1-7 read by a representative of the City of Cambridge
Carol Eliseus (Huw Watkins - Commission (world premiere))
Away in a manger (Arr. Willcocks)
Seventh lesson: Luke 2 vv 8-16 read by the Director of Music
Can I not syng but hoy? (Francis Jackson)
God rest you merry, gentlemen (Arr. Willcocks)
Eighth lesson: Matthew 2 vv 1-12 read by the Vice-Provost
We three kings of Orient are (Arr. Neary)
The Magi's Dream (Whitbourn)
Ninth lesson: John 1 vv 1-14 read by the Provost
O come, all ye faithful (Arr. Willcocks)
Collect and Blessing
Hark! The herald angels sing (desc. Cleobury)
In dulci jubilo (BWV 729) (Bach)
Prelude and Fugue in B major (Dupré) [broadcast on Radio 3 on Christmas Day only]
Director of Music: Stephen Cleobury
Organ scholar: Henry Websdale
Producer: Philip Billson
For many around the world, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, live from the candlelit Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, marks the beginning of Christmas. It is based around nine Bible readings which tell the story of the loving purposes of God. They are interspersed with carols old and new, sung by the world-famous chapel choir who also lead the congregation in traditional Christmas hymns.
King's College Choir has performed a newly written carol at the famous Christmas Eve service A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols every Christmas since 1983. This year's carol - the 35th carol commissioned by King's for the Festival - is by Welsh composer Huw Watkins, who studied at King's as an undergraduate and is now Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.
The carol, which will be heard in public for the first time on Christmas Eve this year, is a setting of part of the welsh Plygain carol Carol Eliseus, chosen by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Of the setting, Watkins writes:
"I was particularly delighted to have been asked to write this year's new carol, having been an undergraduate at King's in the '90s. As a non-Welsh-speaking Welshman, I was also thrilled and slightly daunted when Stephen Cleobury suggested a Welsh text. My mother (a native speaker) has helped me with the sounds and stresses of the words, and I feel like setting this language has unlocked an indefinable Welshness in my music. I wanted to write something pure and somehow artless, and all the time I've had that glorious acoustic in my head."
The carol continues a tradition dating back to the beginning of Stephen Cleobury's tenure as Director of Music at King's, and is part of a long-standing contribution by the College to contemporary choral writing. Commissioned carols from previous years have included Judith Weir's Illuminare, Jerusalem and John Rutter's What Sweeter Music, as well as compositions by Jonathan Dove, Judith Bingham, John Tavener, Tansy Davies and many others.